Authors Posts by Victoria Espinoza

Victoria Espinoza

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Victoria Espinoza is the editor of the Times of Huntington & Northport. She once broke her elbow trying to eat a cookie.

Brian Dreher was arrested for having a relationship with a 16-year-old girl who was a student of his at Walt Whitman High Shool. Photo from SCPD.

Suffolk County Police arrested a Walt Whitman High School teacher Friday, May 26 who allegedly had an inappropriate relationship with one of his students in Huntington Station.

Special Victims Section detectives began an investigation into the conduct of a Walt Whitman High School teacher and discovered said he was having an inappropriate relationship with one of his 16-year-old female students. Detectives arrested Brian Dreher, 41, of East 17th St., Huntington Station, at his home at approximately 7:25 a.m.

Dreher, who teaches social studies at the school, located on West Hills Road in Huntington Station, was charged with third-degree rape, third-degree criminal sexual act and endangering the welfare of a child.

Detectives are asking anyone with information to contact Special Victims at 631-852-6531.

Dreher will be held at the Seventh Precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip today. Attorney information on Dreher was not immediately available.

Scenes from Greenlawn's Veterans Day Ceremony Nov. 11. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

For anyone planning to attend the Greenlawn Memorial Day ceremony May 29, this year’s event promises to be a unique one.

After a joint effort between the Greenlawn American Legion Post 1244, the Greenlawn Fire Department and Huntington Town, the Greenlawn monument located across from Greenlawn Park was refurbished.

According to the legion post, the monument was originally dedicated as a memorial to Greenlawn residents who fought in World War I. It was then rededicated in 1960 as a monument to “all those who made the supreme sacrifice.” The landmark has been in its current location since 1996 at the corner of Pulaski Road and Broadway in Greenlawn.

The original World War I plaque and the 1960 dedication plaque have been refinished to their original conditions, and four smaller plaques have been added to the sides of the monument, commemorating those who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the current Global War on Terror. A new eagle will also replace the monument’s existing eagle, which is a smaller one donated by the fire department after the original bronze eagle was stolen. The monument has also been moved several feet forward so it’s easier for residents to see the plaques on the back of the monument.

Bob Santo, public relations chairman for the Greenlawn post, said the work for this project started a year ago, and it was completed thanks to a team effort.

“It was important to our group because that’s the location we celebrate Veterans Day and Memorial Day,” Santo said in a phone interview. “But it’s also a focal point of the community, and we wanted to bring it up to date and make it look great again.”

Huntington Councilman Mark Cuth-
bertson (D) said he was approached with the idea from the post and the fire department after the previous year’s Veterans Day ceremony.

“It was my honor and privilege in assisting the A.L. Post 1244 in this important endeavor,” he said in a statement. “I would like to commend Dennis Madden, commander of Post 1244, and Bill Irving of the Greenlawn Fire Department for their dedication and commitment to our nation’s veterans and community.”

A few days prior to the monument’s unveiling, a Purple Heart will be sealed into the base of the monument in honor of all those who were killed or wounded in all of America’s conflicts. In addition, a National Defense Ribbon will be included in honor of all who have worn a United States service uniform.

“I’m very happy with how everything came together,” former post commander Dennis Madden said in a phone interview. “It was important to get this done because this is a monument to all of the people who have fought for this country.”

Bill Irving said this project came together thanks to the teamwork and unity of the post and the fire department.

“This was a true partnership. We did this together for the right reasons,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s important to us to support our veterans in any way we can. This is my way of saying thank you to our veterans for all they have done.”

Residents can come see the unveiling after the Memorial Day parade Monday morning, which starts at 9 a.m., just prior to the annual Memorial Day ceremony.

Gunther's Tap Room caught on fire early Tuesday morning. Photo from Photo from Chris Ciaci.

By Victoria Espinoza

Gunther’s Tap Room was gutted after a fire consumed the walls of the bar Tuesday morning, May 23.

The fire at Gunther’s, a mainstay in the Northport Village community, required the response of more than 60 firefighters to the scene after Northport fireman Jake Milliken passed the bar in the morning while driving on Main Street and noticed the smoke, according to Steve Silverman, public information officer for the Huntington Fire Chiefs Council.

The department said the fire started at about 7 a.m. and was brought under control within an hour, however it took another two to do a complete overhaul of the establishment.

“It was very labor intensive because of the construction of the property,” Northport Fire Department Chief Brad Wine said in a phone interview. “The body of the fire wasn’t tremendous but it was in the walls and ceiling so we pretty much had to gut it.”

Wine said the firefighters had to remove the tin ceiling and open up all of the walls to ensure there was no chance of an additional fire starting.

Three firefighters, two from Northport and one from Kings Park, suffered minor injuries including smoke inhalation and back and ankle injuries from slipping, and were transported to Huntington Hospital and St. Catherine’s Hospital. Wine said all three are on the mend and home recovering.

Wine said it was difficult responding to the call, knowing the importance of Gunther’s for the community.

The inside of Gunther’s after firefighters worked to stop the fire and inspect the establishment. Photo from Chris Ciaci

“Pete Gunther was a former chief with us in the department, I knew him my whole life, and I graduated high school with Eddie [McGrath] so it was tough to see something like this happen to a local business,” he said. McGrath, a former bartender at Gunther’s became the owner of the bar after Gunther died last year.

“Everyone knows Gunther’s, it’s a landmark in Northport,” Wine said.

Northport Police Chief Bill Ricca said the department received an alarm from Milliken, as well as a few other residents.

The police assisted the fire department with evacuating five people from apartments on the second and third floor of the building.

“The fire department did a really good job of containing the fire,” Rica said. “These old buildings are tinder boxes, and we were pretty fortunate that is was contained to the first floor, with minor damage on the other two floors.”

Ricca agreed it was sad to see this happen to the historic bar.

“We’re hopeful they get the spot up and running again,” he said. “It’s a staple to the Northport community, and a we hope they can successfully recover it.”

The Centerport, East Northport, Kings Park, Greenlawn and Eaton’s Neck fire departments responded to the scene to help. The fire is currently under investigation by the Suffolk Police Arson Squad and Northport Fire Marshal, and no determination has been made for the cause of the fire. Suffolk Fire-Rescue Coordinators, Emergency Management and the American Red Cross were on the scene to provide assistance with relocating displaced residents.

Ricca said neighboring businesses Clipper Ship Tea Company and 7T8 European Fusion also suffered some fire and water damage as a result of the incident.

File photo

Suffolk County Police arrested a man for allegedly committing a lewd act in public in Huntington Station May 21.

A female student at Huntington High School was walking on Oakwood Road to her parked vehicle on Holdsworth Drive May 18 at approximately 2:05 p.m. when a man in a pickup truck pulled up next to her. The female observed the male driver masturbating in the 2007 red Ford Explorer. The female stated she was going to call the police and the man drove away.

Following an investigation, Second Squad detectives arrested Eric Lombardi in front of his home, located on Arthur Place in Plainview, at approximately 8:25 p.m. on May 21. Lombardi, 44, was charged with public lewdness and was scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip May 22.

Maximilian Beres was arrested for allegedly robbing a Smithtown bank. Photo from SCPD.
Maximilian Beres was arrested for allegedly robbing a Smithtown bank. Photo from SCPD.

Suffolk County Police arrested a man for robbing a Smithtown bank Thursday afternoon, May 18.

Police said a man entered New York Community Bank, located on Nesconset Highway, at approximately 1:45 p.m., displayed a handgun and demanded money.  The teller complied with the suspect’s demands and gave him cash from the drawer.  The suspect fled the bank on foot to a waiting vehicle.

Fourth Precinct Police Officer James Tobin located a vehicle matching the description of the suspect’s vehicle and pulled the driver over. Officer Tobin arrested the suspect, Maximilian Beres, 29, of Port Jefferson Station. Major Case detectives charged Beres with first-degree robbery.

Beres is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip May 19.

Hecksher Park may be one of the first spots in Huntington to use zero-emission lawn care equipment. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Victoria Espinoza

After months of requests from residents that Huntington go greener, the town board took steps at the its last meeting to make Hecksher Park and Town Hall “green zones.”

At the May 9 meeting the board voted unanimously to approve a resolution establishing a research program to look into replacing gas fueled landscaping equipment with battery operated units at Heckscher Park and Town Hall to reduce emissions and noise.

A green zone is an area maintained with zero-emission lawn care equipment.

The resolution was co-sponsored by Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) and Councilwoman Susan Berland (D). The plan includes retaining the American Green Zone Alliance to conduct a study that will analyze the town’s existing landscaping practices, recommend the appropriate cost-effective, battery powered equipment and instruct town personnel on the use, care and maintenance of the devices.

Berland has been working for months to pass a resolution to limit gas powered leaf blowers due to the health and environmental concerns associated with them.

“This resolution is a great first step to protecting our environment and reducing air and noise pollution in our Town,” Berland said in a statement. “Many constituents have contacted me to restrict the use of gas powered leaf blowers to address their quality-of-life concerns.”

“It is in perfect alignment with our town’s clean energy community policy. Huntington is showing once again its commitment to sustainable initiatives.”
— Bonnie Sager

She encouraged residents to visit the town’s website to watch a public service video she created last year meant to inform community members about the drawbacks of leaf blowers and presents possible alternatives. The website also features a survey to gauge the public’s reliance or disapproval of using leaf blowers.

“I look forward to working together with Huntington CALM and the American Green Zone Alliance to create a ‘green zone’ at Heckscher Park and Town Hall,” she said. “Huntington has always been a beautiful place to live, work and raise a family. Let’s keep it that way.”

Groups like Huntington Citizens Appeal for Leafblower Moderation, and the American Green Zone Alliance have been vocal about the health issues, like asthma and hearing damage, that have been tied to use of gas powered blowers, according to the World Health Organization.

At the meeting, several residents applauded the efforts of the board to improve the situation.

Bonnie Sager, cofounder of Huntington CALM spoke at the meeting.

“The 2,000 plus Huntington CALM supporters and I would like to thank you for bringing forth this resolution,” she said at the meeting. “It is in perfect alignment with our town’s clean energy community policy. Huntington is showing once again its commitment to sustainable initiatives.”

Sager listed the many ways switching to electric equipment would save taxpayers money, as well as eliminate airborne pollutants.

“Hecksher Park is a crown jewel of Huntington serving our residents and guests with the museum, the duck pond, the concert venue and more,” she said. “By becoming a green zone our jewel will shine even brighter.”

The American Green Zone Alliance is based in California and is a leader in a nationwide effort to help communities address noise and air pollution issues. It provides certification and accreditation in zero-emission landscape maintenance strategies; educates individuals, property owners, and landscape maintenance professionals to reduce or eliminate the use of gasoline powered maintenance equipment in favor of cordless electric and manual equipment; and promotes those strategies through its green zone certification program that allows the owners of properties of any size to create, maintain, and promote their own zero-emission green zone. It is working with the Town of Southampton on a similar project.

Petrone said he was grateful for the community participation in this effort.

“I appreciate Huntington CALM’s efforts to raise our consciousness about the environmental effects and health dangers of gas powered landscaping equipment, including significant noise pollution,” Petrone said in a statement. “Heckscher Park and Town Hall are perfect locations for a demonstration program to test the feasibility and efficiency of battery powered equipment that reduces emissions and operates at significantly lower decibel levels than gas powered equivalents. I look forward to seeing, and not hearing, the results.”

Kings Park

Budget: $88.5 million

The 2017-18 budget is a 2.18 percent increase over last year’s budget The tax levy increase is set at 2.08 percent; however, this budget does not pierce the state-mandated cap, according to Superintendent Tim
Eagen. The budget passed with 1,360 yes votes to 533 no votes.

Eagen said he was pleased with the outcome.

“I just feel great,” he said after the results were announced. “The budget passed 72 percent approval. Just happy that the community is very happy with what we have going on here, and it’s just great to have their support.”

The district wasn’t interested in change this year, as incumbent Joe Bianco was elected for another term. Bianco had 989 votes, with Katy Cardinale coming in second with 733 votes, and J.P. Andrade getting 110 votes.

“It feels great,” Bianco said after the results were announced. “It feels very nice to know that you’ve done this for three years and people trust you to look after their kids for another three years. I’m [also] very happy that the budget passed by such a wide margin.”

Bianco already has his sights set on the future.

“Continuing to build on our facilities and our bond project and facilities upgrade to update our foundation of Kings Park,” he said. “And to continue to work with our teachers to negotiate, I’ll steal Dr. Eagen’s words, a sustainable, predictable and equitable contract”

Cardinale said she felt confident in Bianco’s ability to lead the district, and Andrade said he enjoyed getting to know his community better while running.

Smithtown

Budget: $239.4 million

The 2017-18 budget is more than $3 million higher than last year and has a tax levy increase of  1.73 percent — which is the exact tax levy cap for this year.

It passed with 2,421 yes votes and 693 no votes.

The budget includes reduced elementary class sizes, new special education resources and a new curriculum management plan.

Smithtown school board president Christopher Alcure appreciated the community’s support Tuesday night.

“We thank the members of the Smithtown community for going out and supporting the vote,” he said after the results were announced. “We run an excellent program here and I’m glad we can continue to do that.”

In Smithown the winds of change came in, as newcomer Matthew Gribbin unseated incumbent Grace Plourde. Trustees Joanne McEnroy and Gladys Waldron also won another term.

Waldron had 2,095 votes cast in her name, McEnroy had 2,090, Gribbin had 1,835 and Plourde had 1,155.

Leader of the pack Waldron said she was happy to be able to continue to serve.

“It’s great working with the board to provide a financially responsible budget and to enhance the kids’ opportunities for instruction,” she said Tuesday night.

McEnroy echoed the sentiment.

“I’m thrilled to be able to continue to serve the community and our children, which has always been my priority and continues to be,” she said.

Plourde declined to comment, and Gribbin was not at the district Tuesday night. In a Facebook post he thanked supporters.

“Thank you to the Smithtown community for putting your faith and trust in me by electing me to the Smithtown Board of Education,” he said. “I can’t tell you enough how much all of the support that I have received over the last few weeks from friends and colleagues has meant! Thank you!”

Chris Kelly and David Steinberg smile after their victory. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Harborfields

Budget: $84.2 million

The 2017-18 budget is about $1.6 million more than last year’s total, with a tax levy increase of 1.68 percent. It passed with 1,224 yes votes to 249 no votes.

On the district’s website Superintendent Ianni thanked all the residents who voted to approve the budget.

“Thank you for all the support that you have given throughout this budget process,” the message said. “This would not be possible without your help.”

A household with a $2,000 assessed value will see a tax increase of $85.22. Someone who makes $75,000 or less is eligible for a tax rebate of $314.85, and the rebate is reduced by $84 in each of three higher salary brackets.

With two seats and four candidates at the Harborfields district this year, half of the candidates came out victorious.

Incumbent and Vice President David Steinberg easily maintained his seat on the board with 800 votes cast in his name.

Chris Kelly and David Steinberg smile after their victory. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

“It’s a pleasure and honor to be able to serve again,” Steinberg said after the results were announced Tuesday night. “It’s such a great community, we’ve done such great work over the last three years and I look forward to continuing that work over the next three.”

As for newcomer Chris Kelly, it seems the third time was the charm, as the resident has tried the past three years to win a seat. He came in second with a close 741 votes.

“I’m honored and humbled and I can’t wait to get to work,” Kelly said after his victory.

Residents Lauri Levenberg and Anila Nitekman were unable to win a seat for themselves, with 623 votes and 476 votes respectively.

Northport-East Northport

 Budget: $163.5 million

The 2017-18 budget is about $1.6 million more than last year’s total. It passed with 2,074 yes votes and 636 no votes. The estimated increase for a $3,800 assessed value household is $122.

Proposition 2, which involved capital reserve expenditures, also passed with 2,197 yes votes to 512 no votes. This proposition will allow the district to use capital reserves to fund additional projects including resurfacing/replacing two tennis courts and replacing the fence at William J. Brosnan School, installing new operable gymnasium windows at East Northport Middle School, and more.

For Northport residents the message was clear: they’re not interested in change. Incumbent Donna McNaughton was able to beat out challenger Thomas Loughran for another term on the board.

Donna McNaughton will continue to serve Northport-East Northport. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

McNaughton came away with 1,750 votes and Loughran with 769 votes.

“I’m very humbled by the support from the community,” McNaughton said after  it was announced she won. She added she was excited to continue to work for the district.

McNaughton was the only one of three incumbents who ran for re-election this year, as a petition last year passed to reduce the size of the board from nine members to seven.

Huntington

Budget: $126.2 million

The 2017-18 budget has a tax levy  increase of 1.35 percent. It passed with 1,022 yes votes to 148 no votes. A home assessed at the district average of $3,600 would see an increase of $111.24.

A second capital reserve proposition to authorize the creation of a new building improvement fund also passed by a vote of 998 yes votes to 176 no votes.

In the Huntington school district things went according to plan, as the two incumbents running unopposed won another term. Vice president Jennifer  Hebert and Trustee Xavier Palacios will both continue to serve their community, winning 1,037 votes and 978 votes respectively.

Hebert said in her candidate statement she believes in listening to all sides of every issue. She is particularly passionate about public school education and believes the learning experience offered to Huntington students should be the finest in the nation.

Palacios said in his candidate statement he has strived to be a problem-solver and to use his legal expertise to contribute to solutions regarding pressing issues facing students, teachers and taxpayers.

File photo

Suffolk County Police 2nd Squad detectives are investigating a shooting that injured two men in Huntington Station early Wednesday morning, May 17.

Two men were standing at East 11th Street and Grand Place at approximately 1:15 a.m. when they were allegedly approached by a group of males who shot them.

The victims, ages 25 and 20, were transported via Huntington Community 1st Aid Squad to Huntington Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

The investigation is continuing. Detectives are asking anyone with information on the shooting to call the Second Squad at 631-854-8252 or call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

The administrative building on New York Avenue may soon be the site of a new apartment building. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Kings Park

The Kings Park school district has only one seat available this year for a board of education candidate, and three residents vying for the opportunity.

Trustee Joe Bianco is looking to continue his work with a second term.

“I believe my experience on the board over the last three years has affirmed that given my background in accounting and law … I have the technical skills and experience to help the [board] address many of the issues it faces today,” he said in his candidate statement.

Bianco has worked as a lawyer since 1995 and has volunteered for different athletic activities  in Kings Park including the Kings Park Youth Athletic Association.

“If re-elected, the board’s first priority is to finalize a new contract with our teachers,” he said in an email. “Sustainable, predictable and equitable revenue streams and contracts are critical to our long-term success as a district and to the long-term security and empowerment of our staff.” He also talked about the importance of continuing the bond project and facility upgrades.

“We must continue to challenge ourselves, our administration leadership, our staff and our students to embrace new ideas and developments in a manner that stays true to the goals and values that are important to our community,” Bianco said.

Katy Cardinale is looking to unseat Bianco, a 10-year Kings Park resident herself.

Cardinale has volunteered for several district committees, including the facilities and legislative committees.

“Positive things are happening and the tone is enthusiastic and collaborative [in the district],” Cardinale said in her candidate statement. “I aim to continue the momentum in that direction.”

But Cardinale said she is concerned about state and federal overreach and its effect on the Kings Park district. She said the current board’s decision to not pass a resolution rejecting Secretary of Education Betsy Devos inspired her to run.

The candidate said she also thinks the board needs to protect school funding more vigorously.

“I feel that our school board needs to be very loud when it comes to protecting every last penny,” she said in her candidate statement.

J.P. Andrade is the third candidate looking to represent the Kings Park community.

Andrade is a Kings Park graduate and recently worked as a diversity advisor and surrogate for then candidate Donald Trump. He has been a television contributor for multiple news stations. He said he also volunteers for various Smithtown groups.

Where Kings Park is concerned, Andrade said his diverse background can be an asset to the board.

“My various work in the government, political field, and the community will be beneficial in serving this community,” he said. “I want to be able to bring some youth, diversity and innovation to Kings Park.”

Andrade said he wants to continue to keep a close eye on common core curriculum, calling the implementation a “disaster,” and wants to bridge the gap between the schools and the community.

“[I want to] ensure that the students are equipped with the best possible educational team, and to make sure they get the top-notch education they deserve,” he said.

Smithtown

In Smithtown three seats are up for election this May, with two of the three uncontested.

Long-time incumbent Gladys Waldron is hoping to continue her service, with no challenger looking to unseat her.

“I’d like to continue with the board, providing a financially responsible budget,” Waldron said in a phone interview. She also said she’s in support of many of the programs being expanded at the district now, including AP Capstone seminars and other educational opportunities for students.

“We’ve also replaced study halls with elective programs which has been a great success, and been able to maintain small elementary class sizes, all without piercing the tax levy cap,” she said.

Incumbent Vice President Joanne McEnroy is also looking to move forward with the district.

“Serving on the Smithtown Board of Education gives me a sense of pride,” she said in an email. “I love the place that I have called home for over five decades and in particular, I love our schools.”

McEnroy, who first ran six years ago, said she is proud of what she has accomplished so far.

“I am very proud to have lived up to the campaign promises … which was to balance fiscal responsibility with quality education,” she said. “We have remained within the tax cap while continuing to restore or build on our already outstanding educational program to make it even better.  The expansion this year of our full-time integrated co-teaching program so that it now encompasses kindergarten thru grade 12, is a source of pride and accomplishment for me as it was just one of the many program improvement goals that I hoped to achieve as a board trustee.”

She is also running unopposed.

Incumbent Grace Plourde is the third incumbent running for re-election; however, she does face a challenger. Newcomer Matthew  Gribbin has thrown his hat into the ring.

Plourde said simply why she’s running again.

“The job is not done yet,” she said in a phone interview. “I’ve been on the board six years and we’ve gotten through some tough times.”

Plourde referred to the state-mandated tax levy cap as one of the issues the district has had to work on to create a budget that still benefits the district and the students.

“It’s all about sustainability,” she said. “We have to make sure we go forward and match revenue to expenses to maintain high-quality programs while staying within the cap.”

Gribbin did not return requests for comment.

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